I don’t know about you, but I can (almost literally) see a light at the end of this tunnel called winter. I’ve noticed that in the mornings, when our daughter leaves to catch the school bus and it used to be pitch dark out, there is a glimpse of dawn. Often lately when I glance at the clock and see that it’s 5:30 and still daylight, I am pleasantly surprised.
The best part?
The early bird CSA starts next week. The early bird, which runs March through May, contains produce that has been in local cold storage, as well as produce obtained through a geographically wider farm partnership. Ken Caulder, owner of Breezy Willow farm, says that he has personally visited every farm that provides produce to his CSA and is familiar with their farming practice and ethic. I’ve elected not to work at the farm in these late winter/early spring months and will be picking up my weekly share along with the other paying customers.
An upside to being shut in during the winter is that I’ve been able to catch up on cookbook reading. One in particular that other cooks and bloggers have been singing the praises of since its release is “Jerusalem” by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Now that I’ve checked it out of the library and spent some time poring over it, I may have to own a copy for myself.
Both authors were born and raised in Jerusalem-one on the east side, one on the west side. They did not meet, however, until they both moved to London in the 1990’s, where today they own several highly successful restaurants. After years of exchanging stories of their home city, they decided to embark on a journey into the food and culture of the ancient city that had shaped them. The result is a book filled with photographs of dishes so visually stunning you can almost smell them, as well as images of the daily lives of the city’s inhabitants who have prepared these recipes for generations.
Two whole pages of the book are dedicated to the explanation of Za’atar, which the authors describe as “part and parcel of the Palestinian heritage and the smell of home to anyone who grew up either in Jerusalem or elsewhere in the mountainous regions of the Holy Land.” While Heidi has a recipe to make your your own, I took the easy route and purchased mine already prepared.
roasted butternut squash with tahini (adapted only slightly from the cookbook, “Jerusalem”)
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4 by 2 1/2-inch wedges
2 sweet onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch wedges
3 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp tahini paste
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp water
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 1/2 Tbsp pine nuts
1 Tbsp Za’atar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Put squash and onion in a large mixing bowl. Add 3 Tbsp of the olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and a bit of black pepper. Toss well to mix. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in oven for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables start to turn color around edges and are cooked through. Remove from oven.
Make tahini sauce: In a small bowl, place tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, and 1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water if necessary. If you make the sauce while the vegetables are roasting and place it in the fridge until you are ready to serve, it will most likely thicken and require a bit of water to thin.
Pour remaining 1 1/2 tsp oil into a small skillet or frying pan and place over low heat. Add pine nuts and 1/2 tsp salt and cook for approximately 2 minutes, stirring often as the nuts will turn brown quickly. Remove from heat when they are a golden color. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly.
To serve, spread the vegetables on a plate or platter and drizzle the tahini sauce over. Sprinkle with the pine nuts, followed by the za’atar.